CNN’s Blitzer Refuses to Ask Susan Rice About Benghazi on Anniversary of Attack

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice during Thursday’s edition of The Situation Room and neglected to bring up the second anniversary of the tragic attack in Benghazi, Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glenn Doherty dead.

Instead, the nearly eight-and-a-half-minute interview discussed President Obama’s speech to the nation from Wednesday night on ISIS and reaction to Diane Foley speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about how she believed that the United States did not do enough to save her son Jim before he was brutally murdered by ISIS.

On the topic of ISIS, Blitzer asked Rice a number of tough questions, including pushing her to state whether or not the United States is currently at war with ISIS and mentioning criticism that the President has received for comparing the U.S. strategy against ISIS to the decades-long U.S. policy of targeting and destroying Islamic terrorists in Somalia and Yemen.

As the Media Research Center’s Geoffrey Dickens reported on Thursday, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted zero seconds of coverage to the second anniversary of the Benghazi attacks. This was in comparison to the Fox News Channel (FNC), which spent 22 minutes and 31 seconds on Benghazi from 6am to 12 noon alone. Meanwhile, the networks found plenty of time to cover a viral video of a bear dancing with a flag tee on a golf course.

Blitzer’s inability to ask Rice about Benghazi and her role in espousing faulty talk points about how and why the attack in Benghazi took place is nothing new as the liberal media has largely ignored the topic in interviews with Rice. Appearances on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on June 1 and PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show on May 30 are just two examples. 

Rice was asked about Benghazi on NBC during February 23's Meet the Press, but it only consisted of softball questions from then-moderator David Gregory, including asking her whether she had “any regrets” about her involvement and whether Benghazi “cost you the Secretary of State job” that went to former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry instead.

The complete transcript from Blitzer’s interview with Rice on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on September 11 can be found below.

CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
September 11, 2014
5:07 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: And joining us now from the White House, the President's National Security Adviser, Ambassador Susan Rice. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. I'll start with a simple question: Is the United States at war right now with ISIS? 

SUSAN RICE: Well, Wolf, as the President said very clearly last night, we're going to do what's necessary to degrade and, ultimately, destroy ISIL and so, that's going to entail a comprehensive approach. On the one hand, as the President made clear, we'll be involved in sustained air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and to the extent necessary in Syria. We'll also be building up the capacity of partners on the ground. The Iraqi security forces, our Kurdish partners and also, with the support of Congress, we hope the moderate Syrian opposition. So we'll combine that with a political strategy in support of inclusive and representative governance in Iraq. We will also support the Sunni elements inside of Iraq to take the fight to ISIL since they're the ones most directly affected by the ISIL terrorism and so, this will be a political, diplomatic as well as military strategy. It’ll involve partners in a broad coalition from the countries in the region who met today in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with Secretary Kerry and pledged to support this effort, to our partners in Europe and Australia and others in the west. It’ll be a broad coalition to deal with the threat that ISIL poses. 

BLITZER: It sounds like a war to me. Is it fair to call it a war? 

RICE: Well, Wolf, I don't know whether you want to call it a war or sustained counterterrorism campaign or I think, frankly, this is a counterterrorism operation that will take time. It will be sustained. We will not have American combat forces on the ground fighting as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is what I think the American people think of when they think of a war. So, I think this is very different from that, but nonetheless, we'll be dealing with the significant threat to the region, to American personnel in the region and potentially also to Europe and the United States and we'll be doing it with partners. We'll not be fighting ourselves on the ground but we will be using American air power as we have been over the last several weeks as necessary. 

BLITZER: You point out to the extent necessary those were your words when you referred to U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets inside Syria. Is there really any doubt that would be necessary given the enormous amount of land that they control not only in Iraq but in Syria? That's really their – their base, their refuge. 

RICE: I think in all likelihood, Wolf, that’ll be the case, but what the President said is we will take the fight to ISIL where we need to and there won't be any safe haven and he’s been very clear that we're not so concerned about borders or about – we’re concerned about degrading and destroying ISIL. I think that suggests that in all likelihood that will be necessary. 

BLITZER: But it’s not 100 percent? Is that what you're saying? 

RICE: Wolf, I think the point is that we will act in Iraq and Syria as is necessary with the advice and guidance of the commanders on the ground. Ultimately, the decisions to be taken by the President, but we'll do what's necessary in that theater to deal with the ISIL threat and I anticipate, since it is a threat that evolves and moves across this now very porous border as the President said yesterday, it will require action in Syria, as well and in any event, as you know, we're also seeking greater resources and authority from Congress to increase our support for the Syrian opposition. 

BLITZER: You know there's criticism and the President's reference – making the comparison to this operation that's now going to expand against ISIS to the longstanding U.S. counterterrorism operation in Somalia against al-Shabaab and in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a lot of folks saying that's a comparison of apples and oranges. Those are a bunch of terrorists down there and don't control a major army with sophisticated equipment, largely U.S. captured equipment or a military officer corps with experience. Is that a fair comparison? 

RICE: The basis of the comparison is as follows. It’s the nature of our strategic approach. In Yemen as well as in Somalia, the United States has engaged in air strikes to attack Al Qaeda targets, whether al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula in Yemen or al-Shabaab in Somalia and on the ground, we have worked with partners. In the case of Yemen, with the Yemeni military, which we have advised and assisted and helped to equip and in Somalia and the forces and as well as with the African Union force now 20,000 that the United States has funded and helped train and support. So, we will be working with partners on the ground and we will be striking from the air, just as we have done in Yemen and Somalia. Now, the tempo of our strikes, the intensity, in all likelihood, will be greater in Iraq and Syria, but the fact of the matter is this is different from the previous wars in Iraq and from Afghanistan in that there will not be American combat forces on the ground fighting on the ground. This will be with partners and U.S. air power and indeed a coalition that is unprecedented. We will be building support from countries in the region as we discussed. Those who met with Secretary Kerry today in Jeddah as well as European partners and others. So, all of us will be involved in a multifaceted effort to build partner capacity on the ground and to strike as appropriate from the air. 

BLITZER: I know our time is limited, but I just got this in. Our own Anderson Cooper completed an interview with James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley and she’s heartbroken obviously, totally understandable, just as the Sotloff family is hearbroken. She’s not blaming the Obama administration or anything, although she is telling Anderson that maybe more could have been done. Let me play a little clip because I want you to have a chance to respond to this very distraught mother. 

DIANE FOLEY: As an American, I was embarrassed and appalled. I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance. You know? And I –

ANDERSON COOPER: An annoyance to the government? 

FOLEY: Yes and they – yeah, and it wasn't – didn't seem to be in our strategic interest, if you will. I was appalled as an American. Jim would have been saddened. Jim believed until the end that his country would come to their aid. I pray that our government would be willing to learn from the mistakes that were made and to acknowledge that there are better ways for American citizens to be treated. 

BLITZER: Alright, Ambassador Rice. I want to give you a chance to respond to this – to this mother. 

RICE: Well, Wolf, I've gotten to know Diane Foley well as she and I have met on a number of occasions when I was Ambassador in New York and here in Washington at the White House. She’s an extraordinary woman. She did an amazing job on behalf of her family and with her husband and other children to do everything possible, leave no stone unturned, to try to bring Jim home safely. We're all heart broken that that was not possible, but I and others in the U.S. government worked very hard with Diane Foley and her family to try to be supportive, to try to provide what information we could and, of course, as you know, the President ordered a very daring and very well executed rescue operation when, on the only occasion, we had what we thought was fresh and we hoped actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of Jim Foley and the other hostages. Unfortunately, they were no longer there, but I think that effort which involved hundreds of American personnel and a very sophisticated effort underscores the importance that we attached to doing everything we can to bring Americans in captivity back home. 

BLITZER: I know you did – you tried very, very hard and unfortunately they – these ISIS terrorists, they executed two Americans and we're all saddened by that. Ambassador Rice, thanks very much for joining us. 

RICE: Thank you. 

Foreign Policy Iraq Middle East Syria Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission War on Terrorism Political Scandals Libya CNN The Situation Room Wolf Blitzer Susan Rice
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